In my previous post on the narratives of the Old Testament, I talked about God’s complete intolerance with the “other” – the non-Israelite who might influence his people to worship other gods and not obey his laws.  The other had to be destroyed in order to preserve the purity of his people.  It did not matter if some, many, or most of these others were decent, loving human beings who cared for their children and did acts of kindness, doing the best to help others and be good people.  They were to be destroyed.  Every one of them in the city of Jericho: man, woman, child, and, well, the animals for good measure.

The taking of Jericho is the first major battle of the book, and others follow suit.  To illustrate, here is the one that comes next, less known to Bible readers today but equally instructive (and gruesome) (and with an interesting military tactic).

Again, this come from my book The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction (Oxford University Press).




The Battle of Ai

The total commitment of God, and Joshua, to the policy of herem (the need to destroy everything that could be a corrupting influence; see the previous post) explains the next intriguing story, the Battle of Ai.  Joshua’s spies tell him…

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